One of the key requirements for any democratic national electoral process, in any country is that it be observed or monitored by members of the national, regional and international community.
Election outcomes derive the necessary legitimacy and endorsement from independent monitoring bodies; such as the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the Commonwealth.
Areas under scrutiny often range from, political party participation, media freedom, electoral environment (especially to do with political violence) and others say to do with women’s participation.
But the question of inviting international election observers to monitor elections has courted much controversy especially in some countries on the African continent.
As a matter of fact Zimbabwe did not allow any observer missions from the SADC and AU’s civil society organisations or international body’s such as the EU to monitor its last controversial March elections.
The ones allowed in operated under such a strict political environment one wonders if it was worth their while to even go in. Rwanda holds crucial national parliamentary elections next week.
Most observers have been in the country for some weeks now, with the final lot coming in this week for the final phase of the observations.
They have come in with the freedom to associate freely to a point one will mistake them for tourists. Juxtaposed with the kind of political jungle one sees in countries such as Zimbabwe, one cannot help but to note that Rwanda has taken the full responsibility in the running of a smooth credible election.
So far, though the observers in Rwanda say that they have not fynalised their reports, they admit that Rwandans have accorded them warm hospitality.
We met Martin Scerbej and Maria Warsinski at around 8.00pm at their hotel. The two were so relaxed blending well with the warm evening environment.
“I hope you are not here to interview us. In any case, if you want any official communication, we can refer you to our spokesperson. What we are confident to tell you is that we are enjoying the hospitality in this country.
No one will look at you with an eye of hatred”, explains Martin Scerbej, a member of the EU Electoral Mission.
What Scerbej, a Chec national is saying is true. No Rwandan will abuse, or insult any of the observers in the country.
The observers in Rwanda move freely during the day, at night and in any public place of their choice. Most after a hard days work will be sported in the different up-town hotels, digging into the local tilapia and some cannot resist that glass of cold Mutzig beer a local brand popular with tourists.
In hostile countries, they have had their vehicles stoned. Moved under disguise just out of fear for their lives.
They however, would not divulge much on their observations so far – more professional in their conduct they instead wanted to get as much information as they could out of us as journalists.
It was a fantastic cat-mouse game between the observers and the journalist- like the hunter and the hunted. You would not expect any winner, as the confusion then would be on who is chasing who? Who is being chased?
For both journalists like the observers are there; to scrunitinise the election on behalf of a public as a matter of duty, to duly inform the electorate of what is going on around them.
Observers have to observe and give the same electorate a verdict of their findings. This is what made our evening fascinating.
We had to remind each other that most observers behave like journalists and that the reverse was true. We therefore, agreed in principle to create a situation where everyone felt free to engage in a casual talk.
The methodology was perfect and soon we got to know each other and the observers gave us their experience in other countries.
“I started working on this kind of missions in 2003. I have been to the DRC, then Mauritania observing the elections in which the President who was recently ousted in a coup d’etat was elected, I also worked in Burundi and other few countries,” said a relaxed Scerbej.
Warsinski also gave us her short experience but only mentioned Haiti, which she accepts is far different from Rwanda.
But when we wanted to know more by what she meant by the experience, she shied away. She was so mean when it came to sharing experience with us, but very inquisitive, on our operations here as journalists.
What one could read from the undertones in the two observers is that, they had been through some not so pleasant experiences, previous missions.
But of course a good atmosphere too offers no news. Like the adage goes there is no news like bad news. This is not only affecting the observers in question, but also journalists in general-until bad news surfaces, then they are redundant.
We therefore, from the above context, assure journalists and observers that Rwanda is at the advanced stages of changing the course of its history.
We shall be calling observers and journalists to get ‘good news’ or good reports to tell the world. Otherwise, we hail Rwandans and Rwanda, for having given observers the warm hospitality they are enjoying.